We spend millions of dollars and hours during the Presidential primary campaigns, trying to weed out the candidates that nobody wants. When this is all over, the chosen candidates usually pick someone who either was not part of the primary election, or who did poorly in it. I once proposed that there be no such thing as a candidate for Vice President, with the role being filled by the runner-up of the Presidential election, and I was told that things used to be done that way. Up to and including the 1800 election, the Vice President was the runner-up of the Presidential election, and there were several candidates in the contest, not at all like today. It only changed because of poor hazard analysis on the part of the country’s founders; they had not foreseen a tied vote. Strangely, instead of simply implementing a tie-breaker by enforcing an odd number of electoral votes or by employing a thunderdome, the 12th amendment forced people to explicitly vote for a President and a Vice President. Given that party politics has always been divisive, this ended up reflecting the kinds of pairings we see now.
Mind you, there are problems. If we lived in a world where the runner-up got to be VP, there would be lots of names on the ballot. Based on the voter response during the 2008 primaries, the main candidates would have been McCain / Obama / Clinton, likely resulting in a McCain win with Obama as VP due to vote-splitting between the two Democrats. If this seems undesirable to you, consider that the 2000 elections would have resulted in Gore as VP, thus sparing people’s faces from shotgun fire. 2004 may have kept the two in place or shaken things up by demoting Bush to VP. A side-effect of all this is that, in most cases, there would be a President from one major party and a Vice President from the other, with either party likely to offer new candidates for the general election. That could potentially lead to stagnation.
There are also advantages. If the country is divided, maybe the Executive branch should be, too. Lincoln was famous for appointing his opposition to his cabinet, typically justified as keeping an eye on them and/or preventing them from working against his goals. But maybe he had other reasons. Maybe Lincoln, who did not win the majority vote, knew that in order to serve the entire country, he needed access to viewpoints that conflicted with his own. If a President and VP from opposing parties could find a way to work together to get things done, maybe they could show the rest of the country how it’s done. Then maybe we can eliminate this whole “party” shorthand that seems to make instant idiots of so many people.
The major problem I see with this idea is that, as far as I know, the VP has virtually no role that the President doesn’t assign to them, so a split administration may mean a VP who gets less done than they would as a member of congress, for example.
What do the rest of you think? Should we do away with appointed candidates and go back to the days before the 12th amendment?